Funding disputes, Kyoto Protocol extension continue to stall climate agreement

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Conflicts between rich and poor countries have stalled United Nations climate talks and kept the conference from agreeing to financing for climate change mitigation and an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Associated Press reports that nations are scrambling to finalize an agreement for payments from wealthy nations to poor nations and extend the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding emissions reduction agreement among wealthy nations, which expires this year.

The finance issue has been a dark cloud hanging over the conference from the beginning, as rich nations won’t make any firm commitments — partly due to domestic budget constraints — and poor nations want $100 billion per year in climate aid by 2020, building on the pledge made in Copenhagen three years ago.

In 2009, rich nations, including the United States, pledged long-term aid to help poor nations mitigate the impacts of global warming, starting with $10 billion a year between 2010 and 2012.

Funding would increase to $100 billion in 2020. However, it was never specified how this funding promise would be kept.

A draft of the agreement being hammered out in Doha urged rich nations “to make firm commitments to provide scaled up climate finance beyond 2012,” but didn’t set any targets for mid-term financing.

The BBC reports that some European countries have offered interim climate funding, but the U.S. won’t commit to any interim funding. The U.S.’s decision has angered environmental groups, especially after promises by U.S. officials that climate change would become a top priority in President Barack Obama’s second term.

Delegates are also having trouble coming to an agreement over extending the expiring Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. never ratified. However, Japan, New Zealand, Canada and Russia all plan on opting out of an extension of the protocol, because it won’t bind large developing nations, like China and India, to greenhouse gas reductions, rendering their own efforts to cut emissions effectively pointless.

A recent report found that China alone was responsible for 80 percent of the growth of global carbon emissions in 2011. China’s share of the total carbon emissions that year was 28 percent, while India’s was 7 percent.

“Those countries, especially those two, aren’t really interested in cutting CO2 emissions to curb their economic growth,” said Nick Loris, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “I think given the fact that so many of the developing countries are unwilling to reduce their coal consumption, it makes an international deal almost impossible.”

According to the AP, nations have set a 2015 deadline for a more expansive global climate agreement to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. However, the U.N. reports that global temperatures have already risen about 0.8 degrees Celsius above that level.

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